Hi all you mystery lovers, this is Lisa Burton, the robot girl. You’ve landed on Lisa Burton Radio, and my guest today is a real enigma. He’s calling in today from The Relix Club in Las Vegas, and he’s known only as the Buddhist. “Welcome to the show, Buddhist.”
“My humblest of greetings, Lisa. One brief correction, if I may. I am currently in The Relix Club, true enough, but it’s located in Houston, Texas, where I have resided, on and off, for a number of years. The confusion may be that I have only recently returned from North Las Vegas. I flew west, you see, to make right a wrong done to a friend concerning his vehicle and another party’s rather substantial debt. It’s probably best to leaving it at that, at least in such a public forum. Too many people listening in, if you follow my meaning.”
“I take it this Relix Club you’re in is kind of a seedy place. When you called just now I distinctly heard glass breaking and someone cursing at the top of his lungs. Why did you choose to call in from there?”
“Cursing? Oh yes, Danny. He’s the bartender. It’s how he relieves stress and maintains order. I prefer chanting, myself. Do you want to talk about chanting and meditative states? Maybe chemical relaxants to assist with meditative states?”
“No. I want to talk about why you are calling from that Relix Club dive.”
“Well, it’s kind of my headquarters, so to speak. I do business out of here and am comfortable with the level of discretion provided by its staff and clientele. The dress code is fairly relaxed as well. Shirts and shoes are more of a humble suggestion than a requirement, you see, so long as you happen to be a paying customer. Plus it’s dark here. Easy on the eyes.”
“Now, Buddhist, my bio says you’re sleeping in an old car these days. What happened to drive you to those depths?”
“I must take exception here, Lisa. My current living arrangements have less to do with sinking to depths than they do with rising from the ashes – like a Phoenix, only in Houston. You see, there was a fairly substantial fire at my prior address, the cause of which has yet to be determined. All I can say on the record is that I was not the perpetrator. Anyway, I decided a more minimalistic approach to life was spiritually preferable after that. I like to think of the fire as something of a cosmic blessing, though I could have done without all the depositions.”
“So I understand using your friend’s car as a residence got him into a pickle last year that had something to do with unpaid gambling debts.”
“The car in question is no ordinary vehicle. It’s a classic Mercury Marquis touring car, circa 1976, containing the largest factory engine in commercial automotive history. Needless to say, it provided lots of room to stretch out, making it an obvious choice. Actually, I only slept in it a time or two and in no way took up residence. I can only say the Merc was central to my friend’s difficulties, but you should ask him about that. Wait, I’ll put him… He’s shaking his head, Lisa. Now, he’s leaving without even finishing his beer. I think I’ve only seen him do that once before.
“A thousand pardons, Hoss. Come on back!
“It’s difficult to explain, Lisa. You see he is the press by trade, yet he shuns the press. Kind of a yin and yang relationship with his chosen vocation, don’t you think?
“Understand, Lisa, I am limited as to what I can say out of a sense of loyalty and due to certain pending legal constraints that I unfortunately fall under. I will go on record to say his difficulties were not of his own making but rather due largely to a certain admirable naiveté on his part. That I fell asleep when I did, admittedly complicated matters.
“Danny, when you get a chance, another drink before the band starts making noise.”
“So what’s wrong with a nice band? It might give the old place some character.”
“Character? The Relix’s loaded with both character and characters. The bands, I’m afraid, tend to draw a more conventional segment of the populace than we’ve become accustomed to, so to speak. Less flexible in their sense of right and wrong, less forgiving. They ask for wine lists and make Danny nervous. What if there’s a fight, for example? These people will want cops and ambulances if someone really gets hurt.”
“Okay then, Buddhist. Let’s talk about the body you and your friend, and his date discovered. What kind of leads do the police have so far?”
“That unfortunate turn of events was most definitely none of my doing. Even Michelle was there as a witness to the discovery, and I can tell she never does anything injurious. My belief is the deceased fell into the shrubbery from an upstairs window while home alone. Possibly death by misadventure as the coroners say in such cases. Frankly, the deceased was, in my view, not as mentally sound as you or I. Say, how do you even know I was there when the body was found? Who talked? A thousand pardons, Lisa, but I’m starting to regret agreeing to this interview. I thought we’d be swapping lewd stories like Howard Stern does. Or, or, or, maybe giving away cars to your audience like Oprah. How do you know all of this?”
“Actually, I used to be a cop, and yes I’m recording the show for transcription onto the website.”
“Transcription? — So, Lisa, assuming that is your real name, do you think during the editing process you could by chance, I mean– Look, humblest of apologies but I have a pending commitment I nearly forgot that requires me to cut this short. A thousand apologies.
“Hoss, the Merc. I need to borrow the Merc. It’s of the utmost importance.”
“Buddhist? Are you still there? Buddhist?
“We seem to have lost Buddhist somehow. The good news is there is a book available. It’s called Songs From Richmond Avenue, by Michael Reed. I’ll post the link, and all the other deets on the website after I transcribe everything.
“Don’t forget about those sharing buttons on the website. I’m sure after he thinks about it, Buddhist will appreciate it, and I know Mike Reed will too.
“For Lisa Burton Radio, I’m Lisa Burton.”
A Houston Love Story, with Beer and a Couple Dead Folks Thrown In
Songs From Richmond Avenue by Michael Reed offers an off-kilter, satirical take on big-city misfits, the bars they frequent and the occasional, albeit, misguided quest for something better.
For the blurry-eyed denizens of the Relix Club and our narrator, a serially employed journalist with questionable work ethics, whiling away the hours engaged in their two favorite activities – drinking and betting on just about anything – is a pretty good life. That is until he meets pretty Michelle, a woman who he declares has “skin so perfect I doubted she even had pores.”
Could she be his salvation, he wonders. Maybe, but not until after he completes an alcohol- fueled urban odyssey involving Michelle’s Nihilist stripper roommate, a paramilitary Buddhist barfly, a pair of dumber-than-dirt, debt-collecting hoodlums, and the usual ration of Bayou City sweat and torrential rain.
“Bukowski, no doubt, would have found comfort and more than a few laughs in the sideshow of Houston inhabited by the author.”
– Steve Olafson, longtime Houston journalist
“It keeps the reader turning pages while navigating the Bayou City at a breakneck pace…”
– Tom Minder, author of Long Harbor Testament
Michael Reed is an award-winning Texas journalist, which means he has lived in inexpensive apartments and driven paid-for used cars most of his life. Experience as a reporter and editor, along with extensive, though at the time completely unintended research into the many facets of Houston’s dive bar scene, provided him with the requisite background material for this novel. This is the Southern Illinois University graduate’s first novel.
You can also find him in the following locations: